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Acronis: Virtualization Speeds Backup, But Will IT Pay In Storage?

An enhancement to Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 introduced last week cuts disaster recovery times from minutes to seconds, but if IT managers aren't careful they could see their storage costs grow even more. The software uses virtualization to accelerate the restore process by creating a virtual machine as part of the backup process. In the event that the production machine fails, Acronis converts the stored image into a working VM. Users switchover and continue work against the restored VM while IT can fix or replace the production machine in the background. Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 comes in seven versions - two
workstation versions and five server editions. Pricing starts at $79 per
workstation up to $1,219 per server license for Advanced Server with
one year of service

Acronis isn't the first vendor to utilize VMs to accelerate backup. UltraBac introduced a similar capability back in May with its UBDR Gold v5.0. While UBR works with VMware, Acronis says it's compatible with VMware ESX/ESXi, Citrix XenServer, and also Microsoft Hyper-V. "Acronis saving disk image backups is one of those brilliant ideas that's obvious once someone else thought of it," says Howard Marks, analyst for InformationWeek Analytics.

Virtual backup is also made simpler with integration into VMware vCenter Server. With the new release, IT personnel can manage their backup procedures and VMware machines without changing interfaces. Data center personnel can use Acronis Management Server (AMS) to display a list of VMs from the vCenter, view a list of machines from VMware Virtual Center or automatically register VMs created using Acronis.

Ironically, it's precisely this tight integration of VMware creation and backup that has at least one IT executive worried. Michel Labelle is the manager, of network and terminal support services at the Information Systems Department of TSI Terminals System, Inc. a container port operator. While generally positive about the Acronis announcement, he thinks it could accentuate the problem of VM sprawl on two counts. For one, the Acronis software creates a separate VM for every VM that's backed up.

Two, backing up with VMs is also a mixed blessing. They allow for rapid restore, but they also consume storage. "Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 only means you backup stuff that you might not otherwise backed up," Labelle says, pointing out that backing up a full VM image increases the size of he backup, consuming more storage. "VMs consume resources in the server pool, disk spaces and now exponentially in backup requirements since every megabyte put into backup replicates five times out [across storage tiers]." Acronis does provide an additional  product that does data deduplication across VMs, minimizing the VM's impact on backup sizes.

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